Social networking giant Facebook has apologized for the grief its "Year in Review" app caused to some of its users. The videos highlighted the memories of the year gone by as calculated by Facebook's algorithm.
The "Year in Review" video highlighted a wedding or a trip for some users while for others it contained more devastating highlights like the death or illness of a loved one. The algorithm chooses default photos and moments that captured the most interaction for users.
For writer and web design consultant Eric Meyer, the app highlighted the picture of his daughter, who died of brain cancer earlier this year, in his news feed, which caused him a lot of grief.
"This is not a deliberate assault. This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house," Eric Meyer wrote in an article titled "Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty."
"But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year," Meyer wrote.
Jonathan Gheller, product manager for the app at Facebook, apologized for the pain the app caused:
"The app was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy," said product manager for Facebook, Jonathan Gheller. "We can do better. I'm very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post," he added. "The team behind the app is considering ways to improve it and will take Meyer's concerns into account," he said.
Facebook has also received criticism for the app's persistent nature, which makes it difficult to ignore. In the past the social networking site has come under fire for invading users privacy to conduct studies and increase its advertising revenue.
Source: Washington Post